"Don't touch that!" I heard a woman exclaim as I sat in my office. "Don't touch that!" she said again. I got up from my chair and went to see what she was talking about. Our waiting room is pretty basic and there isn't much that I would consider not kid friendly.
As I peered around the door I was greeted with a red kool-aid stained lipped smile. She had to be about four. Half of her hair held neon bright colored bow barrettes holding braids in place. The other half was not braided and resembled much of what my hair looks like when I wake up in the morning. Her jean shorts fell off of her and her shirt was definitely a bib for her kool-aid.
Mom quickly replied "sorry" when she saw me and started to go into an explanation about her daughter touching things. I reached out and touched Mom's arm and said "no worries."
She looked at me and started to say something else and I assured her that all was well. "Well, when you have kids you'll know what I mean," she had to say as she looked me over.
I hesitated for a second as I stood there standing in a black business dress, with a gold necklace, rings, bracelet, and shiny heeled shoes. My hair styled and make-up just right. Really I felt fake as I presented an image of being perfectly put together.
"Actually..." I began to say. I wanted to tell her I do have three kids and I am just like any other parent, especially when out in public with my kids. That last night at mini golf my kids ran all over the course and threw their golf balls in the water and bushes. And my kids often bare their own food stained faces and clothes, but somehow I could not say this.
So instead I asked her how I could help her. She went into a sad, sad story and I helped her in every way that I could.
Often I try to be empathetic to those that we serve. Often I feel as though I fail. I remember during my first interview at UMI 11 years ago being told that "You can't save everyone." No I can't save everyone, but that does not mean I cannot try in every way that I can to help as many as I can. There are just too many people in this world who need help and are hurting and too many of us do nothing.
I am reminded of this daily.
And when I watch a little girl and her mom leave and the little girl turns around, looks at me with her deep brown eyes, one hand holding up her shorts and the other waving goodbye, I know I cannot stop trying to save everyone. I just can't.